Friends, family remember guitarist killed in nightclub fire - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Friends, family remember guitarist killed in nightclub fire

By PAUL SINGER, Associated Press Writer

HUBBARD, Ohio (AP) - Mourners wearing black ribbons with "Rock on, Ty" printed in silver packed a remote church on Sunday to remember Great White guitarist Ty Longley.

"Ty is now free to tour the world," band manager Paul
Wollnough told the crowd at Corner House Christian Church.

Longley, 31, was one of 98 people to die from injuries suffered in a Feb. 20 fire at the Station nightclub in West Warwick, R.I.

Investigators suspect the band's pyrotechnics ignited soundproofing foam.

A grand jury is investigating and no charges have been filed.

None of the four surviving band members attended the service.

Hundreds filed into the church, as brief laughter interrupted tears and sniffles and a recent picture of Longley and his sister, Audrey Dinger, appeared on a screen above the altar. The two grinned for the camera, their cheeks stuffed with grapes.

As a freezing drizzle fell outside, people stood in the aisles and crowded the lobby and the infant's cry room at the church that seats 450 and is about 60 miles southeast of Cleveland.

Flower arrangements covered the floor near the altar.

The Rev. Jim Burks said when Longley could not make it to Ohio and western Pennsylvania from Los Angeles for holidays, he would spend his day delivering peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches to the homeless in Venice Beach.

"His heart was as big as his hair," Burks said, quoting
Longley's mother.

Longtime friend Brian Zoccole, 43, of Sharpsville, Pa., asked mourners to stand and embrace as he read a poem he wrote describing Longley's life as a song. Each verse was different and the last one tragic, but "the chorus is always the same: Love, laughter, love," he said.

The band hopes to release an album in about four weeks, to be called "Regular Guy," collecting music Longley recorded with Great White and other musicians, interspersed with recordings of prank telephone calls he made, Wollnough said after the service.

Proceeds would go to a memorial fund relatives are establishing for scholarships and to benefit Longley's unborn child. Longley's girlfriend is four months pregnant.

After the service, friends played mellow rock standards at the barnlike Yankee Lake Ballroom in the nearby village of Brookfield.

Inside, there was an American flag on a plain white backdrop behind the stage and strings of white lights.

Hundreds stood in a receiving line for the family as more "Rock on, Ty" ribbons were handed out.

Longley's father, J. Patrick Longley, organized the memorial near his northeast Ohio home, where Ty lived until 1991. The elder Longley invited local musicians and his son's guitar teacher to perform afterward.

Longley listened to Great White in the late 1980s and idolized guitarist Mark Kendall, said Dinger, who lives just over the Ohio line in Sharon, Pa.

Longley joined the band about four years ago. Kendall and singer Jack Russell are the only members from the original lineup. The band played smaller venues after its biggest hit in 1990, "Once Bitten Twice Shy."

Dave Seil, 34, of Liberty, played in a band with Longley in
1991.

"That was his dream, to play for a band you loved growing up," Seil said. "He accomplished what he wanted to do."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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